Wednesday, December 05, 2007

“Afterthought” Irish conquer K-State 68-59

If there's a God, that shot was going in.
ND Coach Mike Brey, speaking of Kyle McAlarney's clutch 3-point shot

The marquee name of Notre Dame flashed over New York Tuesday, but all the pre-game hype in the Jimmy V Classic held in venerable Madison Square Garden centered on the tournament's other three teams; Kansas State, Memphis, and USC, and their trio of talented freshmen, Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose, and O.J. Mayo. But for one night, at least the Irish proved they still belonged under the bright lights of big-time college basketball, beating K-State 68-59.

In reality Notre Dame really needed this victory, for despite entering this tournament with a 5-2 record, the only contests where the Irish played teams other than cupcakes, they held late second-half leads but still lost each game. And for a moment or two, the same bad dream seemed to be coming true for Notre Dame, Tuesday, as Kansas trimmed a 11-point Irish lead to a single basket with a scant 90 seconds left.

But who better to save the day for Notre Dame than New York native Kyle McAlarney, who rescued the Irish by not only scoring 9 of his 18 points in the last 2 minutes and 10 seconds, but hitting the clutch 3-pointer that Brey prayed for to put the game away. And, for the hometown-boy-turned-hometown-hero, this triumph was monumental, not only because he gave the 250 or so family and friends present at the Garden a thrill they wouldn't forget, but it helped Kyle wipe away the memory of a sophomore season where he was suspended from school for marijuana possession just prior to the Irish's New York appearance.

Michael Beasley justified his advance billing by leading Kansas State with 19 points, but he was eventually worn down by the physical play of ND's Luke Harangody (19 pts., 14 rebounds) who held Beasley to 1 of 8 shooting in the second half. The Irish will next play Memphis (who did hold "THE Mayo" to 16 pts. in its O.T. victory over the Trojans) for the tournament championships.

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